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Why I’m a fan of Manchester United

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Ooh Aah, Cantona!

CANTONA MANU
The King.

Welcome to the refreshed The Busby Babe! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules].* We’re collecting all of the stories here [https://www.sbnation.com/why-we-are-fans] and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

I was lucky enough to have been born in the ‘80s; a golden age for Manchester United fandom. Not because the ‘80s were good for us - they weren’t - but because being born in the ‘80s meant coming of age in the ‘90s. And coming of age in the ‘90s meant that I grew up watching a United team that was fun.

I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the extended period of suffering enduring by the United faithful in the preceding decades, forced to watch as bitter rivals Liverpool dominated the country and the continent. I was too young to appreciate the emotional relief of that first league title under Sir Alex Ferguson; the pay-off of a years-long project that didn’t always look like it would pay off. It wasn’t until later that I was able to understand what made that class of academy graduates so special.

It wasn’t any of that that made me fall in love with the team that I’ve been following all these years. It was Eric Cantona.

I don’t remember the first United match I watched. I don’t exactly remember if I chose them, or if they were chosen for me. But I distinctly remember being mesmerized by the ability and swagger of one player in particular. How does he do that? I want to be like him!

When you’re a kid, it’s natural to want to root for the winners. As an adult, your favorite team losing a football game still sucks, but it can quickly be put into the context of the more important things in life. As a child, your favorite team losing a football game feels traumatic. Who wants to root for a team that will make you feel like that? So for me, Eric Cantona was a godsend. He was an extraordinary footballer, an extraordinarily cool man, and he won things. An 8 year-old’s dream.

Maybe I was 8. Maybe younger. By the time Cantona had moved on, and the treble season happened, I had already felt like I was United for as long as I could remember. With no one in my family being football mad, I could have switched allegiances without too much bother. But the pure joy of that season - I’ll never forget screaming and running around after school watching Ole poke that ball in the back of the net - locked me in for life.

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. SB Nation Why Are You a Fan Reader Sweepstakes starts on 8:00am ET on May 25, 2017 and ends at 11:59pm ET on June 8, 2017. Open only to eligible legal residents of the United States, 18 years or older. Click here for Official Rules and complete details, including entry instructions, odds of winning, alternative method of entry, prize details and restrictions, etc. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor: Vox Media, Inc.